Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Mortimer Sellers, Stephan Kirste

Animal Rights

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6730-0_407-1

The Idea of Animal Rights: Historical and Philosophical Background

Do nonhuman animals have – or should they have – certain moral and/or legal rights that entitle them to protection of their basic interests and intrinsic value or “selfhood”? Animal rights are evoked in a wide variety of contexts, generally concerning the normatively appropriate moral and/or legal status of, entitlements of and obligations toward animals. The envisaged class of animal right-holders rarely includes all biological animals, and is most commonly limited either to animals that possess human-like cognitive capacities (e.g., great apes, whales, and elephants) or to sentient animals (vertebrates and some invertebrates). The phrase “animal rights” typically refers to basic rights such as the right to life and bodily integrity, but is sometimes – especially colloquially – used to cover a more expansive range of normative protections afforded to animals.

The idea of animal rights is not novel and finds mention in...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International LawHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of LawUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Leslie Francis
    • 1
  1. 1.College of LawUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA